As a party we say these are things that resonate with people of faith. – Rev. Derrick Harkins
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As far as Scott Howell is concerned, the Republican Party doesn't have a corner on "Mormon moments."
Despite the heavy influx of Mormonism during the final evening of last week’s Republican National Convention, the former Utah State Senate minority leader and current U.S. Senate candidate says he has participated in a couple of similarly significant events that have spotlighted The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the ongoing Democratic National Convention.
"I never thought I'd be walking into meetings at the Democratic National Convention carrying my triple combination (a bound volume of scriptures revered by Latter-day Saints, including the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price)," Howell said Wednesday afternoon during a telephone interview conducted just moments before he boarded a plane to return to Utah. "But I've done that for two consecutive days now.
"I've been reading from it and quoting from it during two landmark meetings," Howell continued. "For Latter-day Saints who are members of the Democratic Party, this is a 'Mormon moment,' too!"
Howell, a life-long member of the LDS Church, had just completed his participation in a panel discussion hosted by the Faith Council of the Democratic National Committee, which has sponsored two-hour panel discussions each day of the national convention. Wednesday's discussion was called, "Leading with Values: Being Our Brother's and Sister's Keeper" and featured representatives from Catholic, Episcopal, evangelical Christian, Islamic and Jewish faith groups, as well as Howell, who represented the LDS Church.
"As a party we say these are things that resonate with people of faith," the Rev. Derrick Harkins, Democratic Director of Faith Outreach, told the Huffington Post Wednesday in explaining the panel discussions. "We are coming together around a common language and common values."
Howell said each member of the panel talked about who they were and what their faith stood for, especially with regards to caring for others.
"I shared a quick version of our 13 Articles of Faith (13 statements written by LDS Church founder Joseph Smith that articulate the basic tenets of Mormonism), and then I quoted from (the late LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley) about compassionate service," he said. "I talked about the church's humanitarian efforts and what we do for helping others."
Howell also quoted a favorite Book of Mormon leader, King Benjamin.
"I told them that too many public servants have forgotten that 'when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God’'," Howell said. "It was almost like a testimony meeting. When I finished, I heard a lot of 'amens'."
Following the meeting he said he was engaged in some interesting conversations with people from many different faith groups, particularly a group of Sikhs and Muslims.
"We were talking about how we are all brothers and sisters, and how we all believe in service and in loving each other, and how that is the key to solving many of the world's problems," he said.
He was also interviewed by a reporter from an evangelical radio station, who asked about many of the myths that surround Mormonism.
"I was able to have some fun with him," Howell said. "I said, 'Look, everyone can see that I don't have horns. And I'm here with my one and only wife, Linda.'"
The panel discussion, he said, was "a wonderful opportunity to explain what we stand for."
On Tuesday Howell participated in the first national meeting of the LDS Democrats Caucus, where he told more than 200 caucus attendees "we need to hold our heads high" as LDS Democrats.
"We can have open and good discussion with our Republican brothers and sisters," he said. "But when we walk into the chapel we should leave our political differences out in the parking lot."
But what if those political differences pit you against a Mormon candidate for president of the United States?
"Then we do what we always do as Mormons," he said. "We study the candidates and the issues. We ponder and pray about the decision, and then we go out and vote for whoever we truly think is best for the job."
Thankfully, he said, "we have two good men running for president."
Howell said he was also invited to give one of the prayers at the Democratic National Convention, but he had to decline.
"I just couldn't afford to spend any more time away from my campaign in Utah," he said. "In fact, I wasn't planning on coming to the convention at all, but when I was invited to represent the church during the panel discussion and to participate in the LDS Democrats meeting, I just couldn't pass it up. This was a dream come true for me. It was one of those 'Mormon moments.' Just unbelievable."